The Health & Safety Executive confirmed that 581,000 workers were injured in the workplace in 2018/2019. These figures indicate a downward trend, but such a statement offers no consolation to the victims of these incidents, some of whom may go on to suffer an absence from work and ongoing problems.
Whilst the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 removed, to some degree, the strict liability of employers, there remains various rules and regulations in force to help prevent or limit the risks of such incidents occurring in the first place.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) places duties upon employers who, own operate of have control over work equipment and apply to equipment provided for use of used by an employee of his at work.
Work equipment is defined in the Act as any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work whether exclusively or not.
The key areas covered under PUWER are suitability, maintenance, inspection, risks, information and instructions and training of work equipment.
A case which considered the reference to "work equipment" and its suitability is Jennifer Ivers V Co-Operative Retail Services Ltd (2001). The claimant was working in a supermarket and transferring heavy boxes of chicken pieces to a chilled cabinet. She leant forward to take out a box of the chicken pieces when the bottom of the box collapsed. She tried to grasp the box more closely which caused a pulling action in her fingers causing injury.
The judge held that the box could be regarded as "work equipment" and clearly it was not suitable and/or not maintained and she won her case in full.
There are many more cases exploring the complex issue of what can be regarded as "work equipment" and further, the elements of the act which then hold an employer accountable for its use. What this means is that it is not a finite list and requires individual assessment of the particular circumstances of each individual case.